Best Actress in a Play
Gillian Anderson, A Streetcar Named Desire
In what proved to be a banner year for brilliant female performances, narrowing this category down to 10 proved nigh on impossible (indeed, the 10 is actually a 11 and I can’t tell you how it killed me to miss Helen McCrory who was just on the cusp). But after much consideration, it is Gillian Anderson’s Blanche DuBois who takes the prize. Star casting it may have been but resulting in a performance of the highest wattage, Anderson’s modern-day leading lady was captivating from the moment she tottered onto the revolving stage and kept us transfixed until the bitter, bitter end as she broke everyone’s heart with the most devastating of exits.
Honourable mention: Halina Reijn/Chris Nietvelt, Maria Stuart (Toneelgroep Amsterdam)
When rounding up a year’s worth of theatre, it can be difficult to avoid focusing on the shows seen more recently but even though Maria Stuart was one of the last things I saw this December, I left the theatre in Amsterdam utterly convinced I’d seen one of the best productions of the year and in Halina Reijn’s Mary and Chris Nietvelt’s Elizabeth, two of the fiercest, most impassioned portrayals on women on the stage. Wrestling with the duties of statehood, the practicalities of being a woman in a man’s world, the very nature of power itself, these two actors inhabited the very substance of Schiller’s text and brought it to extraordinary life.
Best Actress in a Musical
Imelda Staunton, Gypsy
We knew this was going to be good, but I don’t think anyone dared dream it would be this good. Destined to be one of the hottest tickets in town when the London transfer opens at the Savoy, better experienced than written about!
Honourable mention: Gemma Arterton, Made In Dagenham
One of the most sweet-natured performances lies at the heart of one of the most sweet-natured shows currently in the West End and I think it is fair to say that Gemma Arterton surprised many of us by anchoring Made in Dagenham to such delightful success. A mother, a machinist, an unexpected feminist hero, she’s a wonderfully warm presence and one that I hope can help the show to continue to succeed.